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Everybody Scream: America’s Biggest Phobias

When you invest in a home security system, you’re taking steps to quell any fears you might have about home intrusion or property theft. Worried about someone entering through the second-story attic? Add window sensors. Concerned a burglar might try to pick the lock to the front door? Install a keyless door lock.

But what about those types of fears that don’t go away even when proper precautions are put in place? Phobias, or as Merriam-Webster calls them, “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation,” are just that.

But never fear. These “exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical” anxieties are a common human experience. So common, in fact, that Americans search their own phobias online more often than you might think, and each state has its own set of high-ranking aversions.

Phobia names are derived from combinations of Greek descriptive words. Acrophobia—the fear of heights—for instance, is a blend of the Greek acro, meaning summit or ledge, and phobia, meaning morbid fear.

Some phobias develop as we observe those around us, and others are the response of a particularly frightening experience. Some are even the result of genetics, according to Katherina K. Hauner, a postdoctoral fellow at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine writing for the Scientific American.

At YLS, we did some research to determine the top five phobias in America as well as each individual state’s top phobia. Gathering data from a yearlong period—September 13, 2016, to September 13, 2017—using Google Trends, we researched the search query “why am I afraid of . . .?” in and cross-referenced the results with the top twenty-four phobias on

In light of this spooky holiday, let’s dig into some of America’s biggest fears.


2017 Top Phobias in the United States


Most Searched Phobias in America

    1. Triskaidekaphobia: Fear of the Number 13
      The unluckiness of this number seems to be something many people are superstitious about. But an exaggerated, illogical fear? Triskaidekaphobia is just that. Topping out as the number-one searched phobia in America, fear of the number thirteen is no small thing.
    2. Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
      One of the more complex phobias, xenophobia is perhaps better described as a fear of the unknown. From the Greek xeno meaning strange or forei
      , xenophobia is additionally used to commonly describe a fear of outsiders or people from other countries.
    3. Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns
      Books and movies like It and The Dark Knight probably haven’t helped, but for sufferers of coulrophobia, fear of clowns, it’s a strong possibility that their phobia of these colorful jokesters originated sometime earlier in life.
    4. Trypophobia: Fear of Holes
      It’s not so much that trypophobics are afraid of running their cars over a pothole or twisting their ankles in a gopherhole. Individuals who experience this common phobia are most averse to holes that are small and pattern-like, such as the small holes in honeycomb or a lotus pod.
    5. Thalassophobia: Fear of the Ocean
      With thousands of miles of ocean stretching across the globe and teeming with hundreds of thousands of animal species, it’s not hard to imagine why a phobia exists related to this massive ecological phenomenon. Sufferers of thalassophobia feel an extreme fear of large bodies of water as well as traveling across those large pools of liquid



Most Searched Phobia in Every State


Aerophobia: Fear of Flying
Ever break out into a cold sweat moments before your plane takes off? Find yourself dreading your flight days or even weeks beforehand? The fear of flying can cause its sufferers to dread air travel and is Alabama residents’ number-one searched phobia.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
It could be as simple as being unsure of which direction to take on the trail or as complex as where to go next in life. For others, it’s more like feeling trepidation when visiting a new country. Whatever unknown thing it might be, Alaskans seem to like change the least.

Brontophobia: Fear of Thunder and Lightning
It’s no mystery why Arizonans get spooked by thunder and lighting, given that The Grand Canyon State has some pretty brilliant displays of this natural phenomenon. But it is a phobia after all, and it turns out that the southwestern United States experiences less thunderstorms per year than their Eastern cousins.

Nyctophobia: Fear of Darkness or Nighttime
Get a little creeped out when you turn off the lights before falling asleep? How about walking through a campsite without a headlamp? Nyctophobia, or fear of the dark, is the most common phobia for residents of The Natural State and can lead to anxiety when there’s no light.

Trypophobia: Fear of Holes
We don’t recommend going to a bee farm with honeycomb if you have this fear. Small, pattern-like holes are the stuff of nightmares for people who experience trypophobia, the fear of holes. In fact, Californians search this common phobia online more than they do any other.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Whether it’s from the abundance of sheltering mountains or the fact that it’s nestled safely between a variety of other states, it seems quite a few Coloradans are scared of what they don’t know.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Xenophobia strikes again, this time on the other side of the country. Blame it on the fact that The Constitution State borders the great, mysterious Atlantic Ocean or that, as the fifth state in the US, Connecticut’s long lineage sets it up for a preference for set establishments.

Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
Imagine you’re standing on the precipice of a large cliff, when your friend inches to the edge and beckons you forward. Does your heart rate quicken? A fear of heights, the distinguishing trait of acrophobia and Delaware’s number-one phobia, might affect your ability to pursue a career as a trapeze artist.

Claustrophobia: Fear of Small Spaces
Considering Florida’s proximity to a spacious ocean, it’s interesting to note that The Sunshine State residents’ top phobia is one of being cramped in close quarters. Claustrophobia is even among the top ten most searched phobias in the US.

Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
Perhaps it’s Georgia’s lack of high places that makes its residents be so curious about this particular fear. Different than vertigo—the sense that your environment is moving or spinning—acrophobia is characterized instead by a terror of being in high places.

Ailurophobia: Fear of Cats
Furry felines don’t seem cute and cuddly to everyone. For Hawaiians and others who experience ailurophobia, cats can be downright terrifying. Hawaii is the only state with ailurophobia as the top searched phobia, meaning The Aloha State residents might think twice before adopting a new kitten.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
We all might be a wee bit nervous about what might lie ahead for us, but for those who experience xenophobia, as many Illinois residents can attest, there is a deep, instinctual revulsion at even the concept of not knowing your next steps.

Thanatophobia: Fear of Death
Death is rarely a pleasant topic, but for those who experience thanatophobia, the thought of death can be virtually debilitating. The fear of death must hit home for many Indiana residents, as The Hoosier State is the only state with thanatophobia as its number-one searched phobia.

Claustrophobia: Fear of Small Spaces
For people who experience claustrophobia, including many Iowans, investing in a one-person tent or enclosed sleeping bag might incite deep fear. The fear of small spaces might strike its sufferers in elevators, tents, airplanes, or otherwise cramped locations.

Phasmophobia: Fear of Ghosts
You might not want to share a creepy story huddled around the campfire with someone who experiences phasmophobia, the fear of ghosts. Sufferers of this phenomenon, like many Kansas residents, might also think twice about participating in many of this season’s frightful festivities.

Gamophobia: Fear of Commitment
With the fear of commitment ranking as The Bluegrass State’s number-one searched phobia, chances are you won’t find too many Kentuckians rushing into a speedy investment or agreeing to a shotgun wedding. In fact, the Greek gamos from gamophobia actually means marriage—one of the biggest commitments of all.

Nyctophobia: Fear of Darkness or Nighttime
It’s less that Louisianans who experience nyctophobia are nervous about the monster under the bed suddenly popping out from its hiding place after the lights go out. It’s simply that nyctophobics are afraid of the lights going out at all. Nyctophobia, or fear of the dark, is the acute fear of being without light.

Emetophobia: Fear of Vomiting
This bodily function might never be considered pleasant, but emetophobics find it truly gag-worthy, experiencing dreads when confronted with even the idea of throwing up. Residents of Maine in particular search this phobia more than any other fear.

Nyctophobia: Fear of Darkness or Nighttime
If you’re one of many Maryland residents who live with nyctophobia you might not do too well without a nightlight. Nyctophobia is characterized by an intense, often irrational fear of harm befalling a person once the lights go out.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
As one of the first thirteen colonies in America, Massachusetts’ robust history might make residents slightly biased toward what they know. Maybe that’s part of why xenophobia ranks as The Bay State’s number-one searched phobia.

Emetophobia: Fear of Vomiting
Maybe it was a bad experience after some leftovers or a dizzying ride at a carnival that left you sick for just a little too long. Michiganders can relate. Residents of The Great Lakes State search emetophobia, or fear of vomiting, the second most of any state in the nation.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Midwestern Minnesota is known for its homey feel, so it’s not a total stretch to find that xenophobia is Minnesota’s number-one searched phobia. Whatever the reason, one thing’s clear: many Minnesota residents value their security.

Claustrophobia: Fear of Small Spaces
Maybe it’s the wide open spaces or roaring Mississippi River that make state dwellers used to spreading their wings, but residents of The Magnolia State definitely don’t like to be cramped.

Brontophobia: Fear of Thunder and Lightning
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Missouri came in at sixth in the nation for lightning-related fatalities from 2007 to 2016, so it could be considered quite logical for brontophobia to pop up as the most searched phobia in The Show-Me State.

Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
Some might say spiders aren’t their favorite, but sufferers of arachnophobia live with an intense fear of these eight-legged creatures, going so far as to steer clear of areas where spiders live to avoid them altogether. Montana comes out as the number-two state for arachnophobia searches.

Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns
You likely won’t find many Nebraskans choosing one of these playful personas for their kiddo’s fifth birthday party. Coulrophobia is one of America’s top five phobias and rises to the top of the pack for residents of The Cornhusker State.

Phasmophobia: Fear of Ghosts
Perhaps it’s the existence of the mysterious Area 51 or the wealth of tales from The Silver State’s rich Western roots, but phasmophobia—fear of ghosts or the paranormal—is Nevadans top searched phobia. Whatever the reason, Nevada residents seem to be spooked by apparitions.

Galeophobia: Fear of Sharks
We wonder if The Granite State’s proximity to the setting of the 1980s classic “Jaws” might have something to do with it. In fact, in New Hampshire, Galeophobia ties with Thalassophobia—fear of the ocean. Either way, residents of New Hampshire are sure nervous about what lurks beneath the deep.

Galeophobia: Fear of Sharks
It makes sense that residents of a state so close to the ocean would develop some natural precautions when interacting with the water. According to Shark Attack Data, New Jersey experienced a series of fatal shark attacks in 1916. Since then, there’s been just one additional recorded shark attack fatality, yet the phobia remains.

Trypophobia: Fear of Holes
If it grosses you out to gaze upon piece of ocean coral or a kitchen sponge, you’re not alone. Trypophobia, or fear of holes, is the top searched phobia in New Mexico and leads its sufferers to be revolted specifically by objects or images with small, pattern-like holes.

Claustrophobia: Fear of Small Spaces
Does the idea of getting into an MRI machine make you break into a cold sweat? The same is true for many New Yorkers. Claustrophobia causes its sufferers to panic when forced to occupy very little space, especially cramped or enclosed environments.

Gamophobia: Fear of Commitment
Don’t expect every North Carolinian to be immediately on board for a big move or fast-paced nuptials. Gamophobia, or the fear of commitment, leaves its sufferers with an extreme aversion to the idea and implementation of long-term obligations.

Triskaidekaphobia: Fear of the Number 13
Get a little unnerved when a Friday lands on the thirteenth of the month? Can’t stand a baker’s dozen? Even with triskaidekaphobia being one of the top five phobias in America, North Dakota is the only state where the fear of the number thirteen is the top searched phobia.

Cibophobia: Fear of Food
It’s less about being scared of a french fry than it is the potential that said french fry could be poisoned or somehow cause harm. Sufferers of cibophobia, including many Ohio residents, live with a consistent, life-altering ear that their food isn’t suitable to eat.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Considering the history of The Sooner State—that its earliest residents moved there before due time, “sooner” than everyone else—it’s unclear why xenophobia would be at the top of the list for an area with such trailblazing roots.

Phasmophobia: Fear of Ghosts
Perhaps it’s the lingering legends of the Oregon Trail or the eerie history of Salem, but Oregonians definitely don’t like the thought of the haunted realm. But phasmophobics’ revulsion isn’t limited ghosts alone. Any type of paranormal activity is likely to trigger an adverse reaction.

Ergophobia: Fear of Work
Maybe it’s the influence of the famous mockumentary set in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Regardless,  residents of The Keystone State appear to be most averse to their jobs. Whatever the reason, ergophobia is characterized by a deep fear of work or even of finding employment in the first place.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Do you know what your next few steps in life are going to look like? Neither do xenophobia sufferers—including many Rhode Islanders—and they can’t stand it. For those who experience xenophobia,  dread is not far behind anything unfamiliar.

Ophidiophobia: Fear of Snakes
Indiana Jones shows one of the most famous fictional accounts of ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, which might help us relate to this particular phobia. South Carolina is the only state in the US where residents fear of these legless serpents is greater than any other fear.

Trypanophobia: Fear of Needles
Getting the flu shot is rarely a walk in the park for anyone, but for sufferers of trypanophobia, the sight of a needle is bound to prick at their very hearts. Distinguished by a revulsion of shots of any kind, trypanophobia strikes fear in the heart of South Dakotans more than any other state.

Phasmophobia: Fear of Ghosts
You won’t find many phasmophobics dressing their kids up in a white sheet for Halloween or waiting in line to watch the latest paranormal flick. Marked by an intense and persistent fear of the supernatural—especially once-alive spirits—phasmophobia is most searched for by Tennesseans.

Trypophobia: Fear of Holes
Texans aren’t widely known for being afraid of anything. But residents of The Lonestar State still have a phobia or two. Trypophobia tops Texans most searched list, meaning many of them must experience a significant aversion to little holes displayed in a pattern.

Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
Do you fill with dread when you see one of the chunky ones scurry underneath the couch? Utah’s desert climate and mountainous regions make it a hot spot for these creepy crawlers. It should come as no surprise, then, that arachnophobia is The Beehive State’s number-one searched phobia.

Trypophobia: Fear of Holes
Really anything with a pattern of small holes fits the bill for fright for sufferers of trypophobia, including many who live in The Green Mountain State. Vermont residents seem particularly intrigued with this phenomenon, searching for it online more than any other state.

Nyctophobia: Fear of Darkness or Nighttime
Like many places in the South, Virginia has its fair share of Colonial Era ghost stories and mysterious tales that might make you think twice about turning out the lights at night. In fact, Virginia residents search nyctophobia, fear of the dark, more than they search any other existing phobia.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Don’t expect someone with xenophobia to take the lead on a brand new hike or sign up for a class they’ve never tried. For people who experience the fear of the unknown, like many Washingtonians, the different or unexpected is something they’d prefer to avoid.

Glossophobia: Fear of Public Speaking
Imagining the audience in a comedic way likely won’t do much good if you are one of the West Virginians who affected by glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. Although this phobia is consistently acknowledged as common, West Virginia stands out as the only US state where this phobia was searched most.

Xenophobia: Fear of the Unknown
Wisconsin marks xenophobia’s tenth appearance as the most searched phobia in a US state. As you plan your Halloween mazes or clever tricks in The Badger State and want to make sure you don’t go overboard, make sure to avoid too unexpected twists or turns.

Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns
Halloween might be a particularly spooky time of year for individuals who experience coulrophobia. These comedic mimers might fill some people with goosebumps at just the thought of seeing one of them doing a juggling routine.


While these are the most searched phobias in each state, this list hardly comprises the full spectrum of fears Americans commonly face. Did we miss a phobia you’ve heard about or experience? Please share with us in the comments.

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